The Detroit Lions are known for passing on big talents. If they pass on Tua Tagovailoa, they could cement their status as an NFL punchline.
Sunday’s Super Bowl should have been a lesson for the Detroit Lions: the difference that is made by a dynamic and elite quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) versus a middle-of-the-road quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo). When the time came to win the game, Mahomes made the big plays, while Garoppolo failed to come through on multiple opportunities to clinch a championship.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is in the Garoppolo class when it comes to the quarterback position. They are both capable, but they are not game-changers.
It would be nice if the Detroit Lions had put together a roster like the San Francisco 49ers had this past season – including a top-notch defense and running game – at any point in Matthew’s career. With that kind of team, Stafford would not only make the playoffs but likely have some postseason victories on his resume. And, yes, maybe even won a Super Bowl.
The problems with this team extend beyond the starting signal-caller. Stafford is a great leader, he was playing excellent football until his injury last year, and he truly elevates a bad roster to mediocre results because of his talent.
But with Stafford’s recent injuries coupled with his age, Matthew may be down to his last few years in the NFL. Not because he lacks competitiveness, but because there comes a time when the risk of a bad injury isn’t worth it – especially once you’ve secured a lifetime’s worth of wealth.
If the Lions were willing to select a quarterback at number three in this year’s draft, Stafford could be the perfect bridge to the future of the franchise. And that pick should be Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Of course, Tua sustained a hip injury at the end of last season, so there is a legitimate reason to be nervous about picking him.
On Tuesday’s episode of Golic and Wingo, Todd McShay spoke about the concerns surrounding Tagovailoa. But McShay also pointed out the tremendous upside of the talented young quarterback (02-04-20, “Best NFL HC without a SB”):
"“If I get Tua, who’s right. And his hip is back. He’s got that same twitch. He’s a lefty version of Drew Brees. But we’re just not gonna know … But how do you pass on him? Knowing that there’s a chance that he could become your franchise quarterback, and become one of the elite players. And could lead you to a Super Bowl.”"
Focus on three items in that quote: “Drew Brees,” “elite,” and “Super Bowl.” That’s all anyone should need to hear with the Detroit Lions organization. That kind of player could be a franchise-changing talent, but the Lions seem to have no interest in selecting him.
And the injury concern isn’t as huge for Detroit because Stafford is under contract for the next three years. Even if Tua red-shirts his rookie season because of his injury, he will still have an additional year or two to learn the pro game under a potentially excellent mentor.
If Tua comes back healthy, this is the opportunity to be great for the next decade. It is a big risk. But only a bold move is going to turn the consistently awful fortunes of this franchise.
The most frustrating thing is that the Detroit Lions have no depth at the quarterback position. And no plan for when Stafford is unable to play (whether it be due to injury, retirement, or attrition).
This is a league where you need to constantly be stacking any and all positions with young talent. And the quarterback is the most important position of them all. Tua could make the Detroit Lions a relevant franchise and a true contender.
But instead, all signs point to this team taking a player that fits a need. And that player will likely be over-drafted because their talent (and impact on the game) isn’t anywhere near that of Tua. That is befitting a franchise that has passed on the best players so many times before.
Why should this year be any different? It probably won’t be. But until it is different, expect pretty much the same sad results.